In name and practice, Moses Olaiya, popularly known as Baba Sala, stands for comedy. For decades, he was the primus inter pares of the industry. But today, like the law of diminishing return, the man whose major known trade is to make people happy, has suddenly become the opposite of his real self.
The comedian, who retreated and maintains the back seat few years ago, after enjoying patronage and limelight for decades, is now suffering from stroke.
At a briefing held on his biography due for presentation on December 4, Baba Sala, who spoke with difficulty, noted, â€œI need help. Nigerians should help me. I am not dead yet, they should not let me die suffering.â€
A pioneer of the now very lucrative comedy trade and a toast of millions across the South-west from the 60s to the 90s, Baba Sala is also a rounded artiste who made his marks in other areas of the performing arts, especially music. The King of World Beats, King Sunny Ade, for instance, had his skills honed under the tutelage of the Ile-sha, Osun State-born performer.
That Baba Sala is first among equals is indisputable and though many assume that they know all about the comedian, especially his travails brought about by pirates, the new book, entitled â€˜Triumph of Destinyâ€™ reveals unknown facts about the artiste.
Published by Sunshine Consults and written by Collins Oyedokun, AkinolaBabatunde and Kunle Ajani, who not only want to document his life and achievements for posterity, but were also moved by the old manâ€™s recent health challenges, the foreword is written by Professor Gbemisola Remi Adeoti, of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife,
â€œThe book chronicles the pride of place that Baba Sala has in the Nigerian theatre industry as a comedian and consummate entertainer. It captures the antecedents and essence of the creative energies of a comical trailblazer,â€ Collins explained at a news briefing held at Lekki, Lagos during the week.
The one-time bride of the countryâ€™s entertainment industry looked frail and breathed with difficult at the event, when he spoke in Lagos recently.
He could barely walk, as he was supported to the venue by two people.
Although he is 80, his family, including one of his wives, Funmi, said the octogenarian was not suffering from old age but lack of funds for medical treatment.
Baba Salaâ€™s investments, according to his first son, Reverend Dele Adejumo, had all been wrecked by circumstances and debt incurred as a result of scrupulous business man, who pirated his â€˜OrunMooruâ€™ many years ago.
Among his investments listed by Adejumo are the Awada Spot in Ibadan; Alawada Standard Hotel, Ilesha; Alawada Records, Ibadan; and IbukunAlawada Photo magazine.
Adejumo said, â€œHe has investments but they have all been wrecked by mismanagement. He also had a three-storey building in Mushin, Lagos which he had to sell to offset debt incurred when his work, OrunMooru, was pirated. We still have some of his recorded works not in public yet but machines that will be used to transform them to an acceptable format are not easily available. We do not have the kind of money they are charging us.
â€œWe have been told that baba needs a lot of money for medical treatment abroad. He is suffering from a stroke and other ailments. There are many people of his age who are not like this. We are trying our best as family members. We take him to the teaching hospital weekly but he needs proper medical attention.â€
The book, â€˜The Triumph of Destiny,â€™ which was co-authored by BabatundeAkinola, Collins Oyedokun, and Kunle Ajani, will be presented in Lagos.
â€œThe book chronicles the pride of place that Baba Sala acquired for himself in the Nigerian theatre industry as the first comedian and consummate entertainer. It captures the antecedents and essence of the creative energies of a comical trailblazer,â€ Collins said
According to the authors and the promoters of the book â€“â€˜Triumph of Destinyâ€™, the book launch is one of the efforts being made by family and friends of the Ijesha-born comedian to rehabilitate him.
The alarming state of Baba Salaâ€™s health, bankrupted by evil persons who pirated his OrunMooru, curbed the enthusiasm of some of the journalists who had intended to obtain exclusive interviews from him.
Rumoured dead twice (two years ago and last August), the Baba Sala that attended the briefing was a stricken man ravaged by stroke. He needs urgent medical intervention, aAluxury his family admitted they couldnâ€™t afford alone anymore
Dressed in a white buba and sokoto with a red cap to match, he was supported on both sides as he walked into the venue, grimacing in pain. He gritted his teeth when he accidentally hit his leg on a chair. He also had hearing difficulties as people had to speak directly into his ears before he could respond. His hands were swollen and shaking; his breathing laboured.
â€œIâ€™m sick and need help. I am alive. But Iâ€™m sick. I am too weak to talk and I canâ€™t walk. I donâ€™t want to be confined by paralysis. I donâ€™t want to die like this. Nigerians should please help me,â€ he pleaded in his brief remarks.
The Chief Executive Officer of Precision Edge Limited, facilitator of the news briefing, Mrs. BidemiOjoawoOladoye, also requested young musicians to come to Baba Salaâ€™s aid. â€œA legend doesnâ€™t deserve to die like this. People like Davido, Wizkid, 2Face Idibia, KunleAfolayan among others can help and should help Baba Sala,â€ she said.
Proceeds from the sale of the book, which the family and writers hope will be well purchased, will be used in taking care of the inimitable trailblazer.
Baba Sala, who reigned alongside legends Hubert Ogunde, Kola Ogunmola, OyinAdejobi and DuroLadipo, AdeyemiAfolayan (Ade Love), IsholaOgunshola (Isho Pepe), was one of those who popularised theatre and television acting in Nigeria. He started the Moses Olaiya International Alawada Theatre Limited and tutored and guided music maestro King Sunny AdÃ© who was once his lead guitar player.